At some point on every MBA application, you will have to state a short-term goal and make no mistake this is a key piece of your application. Regardless of how strong your undergraduate GPA is or how great your work experience, if you can’t state a clear, authentic, and rational short-term goal your application is at risk of a ding.
Before we dig into HOW to set out a winning short-term goal, let’s briefly talk about WHY that’s so essential. Think of the admissions committee as an investment group, and you are asking to be a part of their portfolio. Like any other set of savvy investors, they’re going to need to know a little more about your prospects before they decide to invest in you or not. Would you invest in a firm if it’s CEO had NO short-term plan for growth? Probably not. Well, neither will the adcom.
So how can you best convince them that you are on the up? There are three key components to crafting a convincing and appealing short-term goal: the basics, the history, and the bigger picture.
This is your starting point, and, lucky for you, it’s very simple.
“I will work with X firm in Y role and do ABC.”
See? Simple. The basic components of the short-term goal are naming the ROLE you want to work in, the COMPANY you want to work at, and the ABCs of what you will do in that role. Let’s break that down a little further.
Naming your role is non-negotiable. The adcom needs to see that you have a particular goal in terms of WHAT you want to do. If you absolutely can’t decide between two roles, as long as they are similar in function that’s ok, but you should be careful about presenting too many “options,” as this will only make you seem undecided, uncertain, and, well, flakey. Not a good investment.
Identifying the company or firm you want to work for is step two, and this is equally important. It follows naturally from naming the role that you should identify where you will carry out this role, but nonetheless many applicants don’t realize how important this is. In addition to providing the adcom with a clear idea of the plan, this shows you know your industry, and builds your credibility. Perhaps you want to work at Firm A because of its specialty in a certain niche, or Firm B because its geographic location provides certain opportunities not to be found elsewhere, or simply Firm C because it’s the best in the business. One way or another, demonstrating that you have thought this through proves to the adcom that this short-term goal isn’t a whim but a plan. Unlike the role, it is far more common and acceptable to name more than one company as an option, though you should not exceed three unless you have a very good reason.
>>>>Recommended Reading: “Discussing MBA Short Term Goal Alternatives”
Finally, let’s talk about that ABC—what you’ll DO in that role. It should be obvious why this is key: if you can’t tell the adcom what your function will be in that role, then you clearly don’t have a solid grasp on why you want to be in that role, and you aren’t likely to be successful either. These ABCs aren’t about your daily grind, either, think high-level here. What will you achieve? What will you implement or revolutionize?
Laying out your role in this way does more than just indicate to the adcom that you know what you are about. It also sets you up to achieve the other two key components of setting out a compelling, authentic, rational short-term goal. Which brings us to…
Your professional history, that is. Unless you are a career switcher, your short-term goal should be built upon your work history up to this point.
This should feel fairly intuitive, but connecting the dots for the adcom between what you’ve done and what you plan to do in your short-term goal will go a long way in building your credibility. Not only do you have a clear career plan, but you understand what it takes to get there, and how your experiences, skills, and qualities will help you. The corollary here is that you also understand what you DON’T have, and that’s where the MBA can help you. Maybe you need a wider network in your industry, or maybe you need some finance or strategy skills, or simply to improve your leadership ability so you can take on a greater role. Whatever it is, connecting your work history with your career plans shows forethought, self-knowledge, and the kind of strategic savvy that tips the adcom off that you are a good bet.
>>>>Recommended Reading: “Are Your MBA Goals Complimentary”
The Bigger Picture
Finally, we need to see the bigger picture: where does it all lead? You’ve given us critical pieces of the puzzle by laying out the basics of the short-term goal and drawing connections to your professional background, but we need the larger context. This is where you tell us how this short-term goal ultimately leads to your vision, and what you want to accomplish in the whole arc of your career.
Just as you connected the dots between your work history and your short-term goal, connect the dots between your short-term goal and your long-term vision. What will you learn, gain, experience in that intermediate role that will prepare you for your long-term goal? This is about further proving that your short-term goal has been carefully and thoroughly thought-out. So thoroughly, in fact, that you know how it’s going to set you on the right path toward achieving your bigger, more ambitious, long-term goal.
If you can do these three things in your short-term goal, you will have crafted a solid, credible, and rational goal, and you’ll be well on your way to convincing the adcom that you are a good investment.
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